If you read me previous post, you would get the impression that keywords still matter. And they do. For those that didn’t read it, here is the link:
It gave some insight into why search still matters and why you should incorporate keywords into your blogs. But it didn’t really focus on how to actually do the keyword research. That is what this article is going to help you with.
I came across an interesting Infographic regarding keyword research. I think it has some good points but it doesn’t give as much insight into how it went about generating the keywords list. It just lists keywords and then it jumps right into which are good and which are not without any reason as to why. I don’t this will really help people who are trying to make sense of how to conduct keyword research.
You will see my analysis of this infographic below but as I was going through the analysis, I discovered that you can often find keywords that are hidden within a Google search that can be used and incorporated into your blog posts. So I reworked my analysis to make that more of the focus.
Keyword Research Infographic by 2theTop Web Design
I don’t know about you, but I like Infographics that are short and to the point. However, it falls short of driving the points across, especially for people who are new to the concept of keyword research.
This Infographic describes four activities in the keyword research process. They are:
I don’t necessarily agree that these categories fit well together as they are not really mutually exclusive. For the most part, I don’t know how many people would research keywords without using any tools. And brainstorming is a very broad category and it could be argued that you would need research in order to perform this activity. Analysis is a separate category so that does fit pretty well here.
One of the aspects of this that I like is how it takes you through the process using the example of somebody who would be searching for flags. But I don’t think the author of this post did enough of a job describing the process and left it up to the use of only the graphic. The graphic doesn’t in my opinion convey the necessary thought process that went into how they came about those keywords and it was very vague on why it was good or bad.
Expanding the Analysis
As part of my value add, I feel as though it would help you if I expanded the sparse analysis in such a way as to leave it very clear what you steps you need to take when conducting keyword research.
I am going to combine brainstorming and research into one category and simply call it research. There really is no process described within the Infographic as to how to go about doing the brainstorming activity. I am also eliminating tools altogether, because you will need tools for research and tools for analysis. For me, research and analysis belong in this expanded version as they are really two separate process that are meant to compliment each other.
There are tons of websites, software programs, that will claim to be the best keyword research tool on the planet. I’ve seen some really good ones and I’ve seen some pretty terrible ones. Many of them will try to convince you of their superiority in exchange for your cash. In most cases your biggest keyword tool that can help you with research is your own brain.
Always start out with the base keyword. The Infographic suggests someone who is looking for flags. So the term “flags” is what we will use as our base. Step one is to simply do a search in Google for that phrase and see what it comes up with. Don’t worry. I’ll get into much deeper research techniques further on down. But it’s always best to use the search engine that 75%+ people use to conduct their searches.
For our flags example, here is what comes up when I performed the search:
Your results may be very different than this. But what we discovered is that there are people that are spending money to advertise these keywords. That means we know there is a market for flags and there are buyers. If there weren’t you would either find no ads being displayed, or very few (1 or 2). For this keyword (flags) if you go to the second and third pages, you will see more ads that are different from the first page. Advertisers that pay for keywords expect a return on their investment. Not all of them will be successful at it, but several will.
But there is further analysis that can be don from this Google search. Take a look at some of the terms that are surrounding the word flag in both the paid search results and the organic results. As you can see, the word “quality” stands out. The word “American” or “U.S.” is a rather popular one as well. If you take a look at the infographic, these terms are included. But this could have been the method that was used to determine that. We have no way of knowing simply from that infographic.
It’s important to note that if you live outside the US or traveling in another country, your search results may not pull up anything regarding the United States.
This was all done without spending a single dime on a keyword tool!
I’m not knocking keyword tools. They do have their uses and I actually do use them. But there are ways to do this stuff without reverting to expensive, complicated technology that changes with each new Google algorithm change!
But there’s something even of more value when look at Google’s search results. The organic searches also have a fair amount of sales related websites coming up in the results. Here’s a breakdown of this:
First Organic Result: Flags of the World – CIA
The United States government is not in the business of selling flags (at least not that I am familiar with) so this is not going to be a commercial website. In fact, it is a .gov website. This is going to be informational/educational.
Second Organic Result: Flags.com
Here is a partial description that is not shown in the example above: “Flags.com is an online retailer specializing in all flag and flagpole products and accessories.” So there you have it. A shopping site dedicated to flags beat out even Wikipedia.org which is usually on the top of the search results.
You could continue with this kind of “brainstorming” for more of the search results but I think you will clearly see there’s a fair amount of organic searches return vendors trying to sell flags or some derivation therein.
Wikipedia does appear in the next result. But then there is another vendor site.
What does this all mean?
Here is an interesting branch of this analysis. Amazon doesn’t appear for flags until the 6th position. Those other vendors beat out Amazon for flags. This could mean several things. Either it’s a pretty good niche to get into or Amazon just doesn’t deal a whole lot in selling flags. Obviously further analysis is required.
I would also caution you to stay away from even attempting to try to rank for the term “flag”. It’s simply too broad and next to impossible to go against the bigger players in this space. We need to refine our results to get it to where it’s still a viable search term but has much less competition.
If someone were to do a search term on the word “flags” in Google, we have no real way of knowing what their intention for that search is. Sure, they may be in the market for some kind of flag (who knows what kind?) But there’s simply not enough information to even make an educated guess. In short, the term “flag” is not a buyer keyword.
In order to get at those buyer keywords, you need to take a step back and start to realize what you would search for if you were in the market for a flag. Perhaps you like the idea of having a “quality flag”. That’s great. We’re getting a little closer to someone who is looking for something a bit more specific than the word flag. But we still don’t know if you are looking for an American flag, a state flag, some other country’s flag or maybe even a flag of your kids’ school.
So the next search that you may perform is “quality american flags”. Now we are starting to get somewhere. As of yet, we don’t have a full understanding of whether or not you are still in the research mode for flags or if you are ready to buy. It’s much closer but it’s still fuzzy.
Next up in the search could be: “quality american flags made in america”. Ah, now we are really very much pinpoint on a specific flag that someone is looking for. Suppose you had a website that targeted that very keyword. Do you feel fairly comfortable that this person is ready to hit that buy button? You have only to trigger their emotions about that keyword phrase and it’s pretty much money in the bank.
Identifying Buyer Qualifiers
There are certain phrases that when added to the base make them almost surefire buyer quality keywords. The words buy, buying, or purchase are some examples. But there are others that are much more subtle. For instance, a specific year can be someone who is looking for something vintage, e.g., “1964 Ford Mustang”. By the way, this term in and of itself, I wouldn’t consider this a buyer keyword. It’s quite possible that there will be many people search for that term purely for informational purposes. But look what happens when we add the following qualifier:
“mint 1964 ford mustang”
Are you seeing what I’m seeing? There is little doubt that someone who is doing casual research is going to use the term mint when referring to vintage items. They are looking to buy and they are specifying the condition that they are seeking! So if you are the proud owner of one of these and are ready to part with it for some serious cash, you can simply create a webpage that targets that keyword phrase.
A Balance Between High Volume Searches and Specific Terms
When doing this kind of keyword analysis, you should realize that the further you refine your results, the less volume of searches will occur. The word mustang should have many more searches than the phrase “ford mustang”, all things being equal. And that phrase should have a higher number of searches (again all things being equal) than the phrase “1964 ford mustang”. The further you refine your search the less the number of searches will occur.
BUT – the more you refine your searches the more targeted that search will be!
This is actually the “holy grail” with keyword research. If you get nothing out of this entire article, try to realize that statement is your key to being successful with keywords.
Let me expand upon this idea by way of example. Many people that have websites learn that they can target certain keywords and then use those keywords in an advertising program like Google Adwords (those are the types of ads you see on the top and the right hand side of Google searches). But a huge mistake these advertisers make is that they want to get as many people from those ads to their website. It’s a mistake because, think about the last time you clicked on an ad from a random site that you knew nothing about? What are the chances that you bought from them? Sure, they may get a few sales here or there. But there will be too many clicks that it will cost they way more than they ever make.
I have seen campaigns that had hundreds of clicks (costing even higher amounts of hundreds of dollars) with NO SALES RESULTING FROM THE CAMPAIGNS! This is why people give up because they run out of money! This kind of advertising (called Pay Per Click) gets real expensive really quickly.
But getting back to hyper-targeting those keywords (the “holy grail” from before). You will get way less clicks from those types of keywords. But the clicks that you do get have a much higher chance of being people that are interested in what you are selling. You will pay less in advertising cost and your chances of sales greatly increase.
The same is true for the content you write for your website. If you target very specific keyword phrases (commonly referred to as long-tail keywords), you won’t get as many hits, but the hits that you do get will be quality hits. It will be people that have an interest in what you are presenting to them.
Why Not Just Set Up a Bunch of Sales Pages with Hyper-Targeted Keywords?
This actually used to work. And when something works, you get bet your last dime that everyone and their uncles are going to jump on board. The trouble is the internet was getting flooding with this kind of tactic. It was easy to do and it was earning people some fast money. But if the internet contains only sales related pages, what happens to the value of the internet in the eyes of the average searcher? And so Google made the decision to crack down on these types of tactics.
What Google as well as other search engines, have always wanted is relevant search results. Results that will help answer the concerns or questions that the searches have about the particular search term. That requires website owners creating content that will offer value to the searchers. And keywords can’t be just blasted all over the page anymore. That sends spam triggers to Google leading to penalties that lower your rankings.
What this means is that even if you have a hyper targeted keyword that you are incorporating into your website, you should not just throw up a sales page and think that this is your ticket to quitting your job because the money is just going to start rolling in. You need to provide something of value to the readers that may come across your website. In the case of the “mint 1964 ford mustang” perhaps you can write about where people can find parts for the car or manuals that are hard to find. Or maybe you could offer up some of your own interesting and entertaining tidbits about the car.
From a keyword perspective, you should be aware that I used the keyword phrase with mint in it twice. I don’t want to include it yet again for fear that Google will think I am trying to “keyword stuff” this article with that phrase which I am not trying to do. In fact, I don’t want anyone searching for that term ever coming across this page. See how relevancy with respect to advertising and your content really matters?
I have given you a lot of information to consider and the only tool that I used for this entire article was a simple Google search. This should give you the idea that keyword research is more complex than everyone makes it out to be. And it certainly can be. But this kind of analysis can help you flush out more for your content creation efforts.